Unlike children today, who are allowed to eat in front of the TV or have an iPad to play with at the table, IN MY DAY, we dressed to the 9’s and sat still for just short of forever at family dinners. In my father’s family everyone killed us with second-hand smoke and we listened exclusively to my Great-Uncles, the Gods of that family, hold forth on family history. In my mother’s family it was more of a matriarchy. We listened to my grandmother, my Great-Grandmother, my Great-Aunt and my Grandmother/Great-Aunt’s female cousin. I remember more than I’d like to.
One of the family stories that grabbed my attention from the get-go was that of my maternal grandmother’s first cousin. She grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, and bravely went off to I.U. in the early 1920s, studied business (about as rare as studying law or medicine) then married a friend of her father’s. His name really was Alva. Sadly, unlike Alva in this story, he died not too many years later of something that an antibiotic would cure today. She moved on and went into real estate. She was one of many strong, independent women in my family who made me see that marriage was only one choice of many.
Fast forward to my own college and then graduate school years. In library school I decided to do a bibliography on Ross Lockridge, Jr., author of Raintree County. Growing up in Bloomington, Indiana, Ross was best buds with my maternal grandfather’s little brother, Ed. I became fascinated with Ross’s very tragic life and contracted my great Uncle, artist Edwin Fulwider, to learn more.
I spent part of two summers out in Northern Idaho where, pre-Neo-Nazi-takeover, my Great-Uncle and a few other artists and academics had a lovely, peaceful summer colony. I learned a lot more about family history, about Ross Lockridge, and about art. I decided I would write a book about Ross. My Uncle kindly wrote a letter of introduction to Ross’s widow. Sadly for me, but a blessing to Ross’s devoted fans, his son had also decided to do a book on Ross that was first published in the early 90s and has been recently re-issued. End of that story.
But a germ was planted. I’ve written elsewhere about how I let a grad student rob me of my desire to be a writer, but all those family stories were brewing. But that’s later. As I was leaving Idaho after my last visit in 88, my Great-Aunt put a lovely cookbook I’d been admiring (this was the 80’s, no Pinterest) and said “After all these years I ought to know that Uncle Ed eats only meat, potatoes and pie.” Hence my title. And, for the record, we ate pie most days at their dinner table!
In my story, a totally fictionalized one since I know absolutely no details of the real marriage way back in the 20s, Alva eats only Meat, Potatoes and Pie and, like my Great Aunt, Meg comes to terms with it since she adores Alva.
Meat, Potatoes & Pie: A Midwestern then is a fictionalized account of some of my family’s history. There are characters based on both sides of my family–the fun and the tragic are both involved. I’ve researched pie recipes, mental health care, business opportunities, weather, farming methods and so much more. I’ve endowed Meg with the good-nature of her name sake, the drive and determination of both my grandmothers, given Alva one Great-Grandmothers still-standing Bloomington home and fictionalized both sides of my mother’s Bloomington family. My paternal great-aunt, who spent years as a “hired girl” is in the story as is her little sister (my paternal grandmother). In the end, I’m pleased with the story–with the love it conveys, that it holds true to the moral fabric of the era and that it has a marvelous cat, Sherman. Hopefully later this Spring it will be ready to shop to publishers.
So, now that you know the story, meet the main characters:
Maggie “Meg” Eades, 21, is a hometown girl aiming for something different in life. Majoring in business in college wasn’t easy, but she saw it through. She’s out to make her mark in the business world, but her conservative hometown has left her with the new bookmobile to drive instead. All of that is about to change.
Alva Coburn, 41, is a successful attorney. A Wabash man with a Phi Beta Kappa key on his watch chain, he’s known Wilma and Henry Eades and their daughter Maggie for years. A hot summer day’s stop to help a stranded motorist is about to change his life forever.
General William Tecumseh Sherman is Alva’s cat-about-town. “Sherman” is a very social little cat and loves to go along with Alva.
Click here to read the beginning of the story.